Businesses lament end to Shared Streets

The Shared Streets initiative enabled diners to sit outside during the warmer months this year. File photo

HUDSON — Warren Street was bustling with tourists enjoying the sun over the weekend, but the Shared Streets program, which allowed businesses to expand into parking spaces in the city’s downtown shopping district, had come to an end.

Shared Streets, which allowed any business on Warren Street to apply for a permit to use parking spaces, free of charge, concluded Nov. 1. Businesses were required to remove items from their spots by the end of the day Nov. 3 to prepare for snow-removal season.

“Basically, it was up to the city and with snow removal being such a huge issue up here — even though we had this remarkably warm week — the city wanted to end it just to get the streets ready for snow season,” Hudson Hall General Manager Sage Carter said Monday.

Approximately 45 businesses had a Shared Streets permit, Carter said. Not all businesses used their permits all the time.

The program helped customers visit local businesses without spending time inside. It also slowed the speed limit on Warren Street from 30 mph to 5 mph, providing a safer environment for people to step off the sidewalks if they were too crowded to accommodate social distancing.

The program ran longer than originally anticipated, Carter said.

“We originally thought of it as a summer program, and once it was working we said let’s definitely extend it through the fall and get through leaf-peeping season,” Carter said.

The Department of Public Works and Hudson Police Department wanted to get items off the street in time for winter in anticipation of snow removal, Carter said.

“I don’t believe there was a perceived need or desire for it to extend beyond October,” Carter said.

Patisserie Lenox, a French pastry shop and cafe at 504 Warren St., lost 16 outdoor seats when the program ended, Cafe Manager Andrea Rooney said.

They had four tables with four seats each in two parking spaces. Remaining are two tables with three seats each on the sidewalk in front of the building.

Their street tables would fill up at the start of the day and stay in use until closing time, Rooney said.

“People would love to sit outside,” she said, adding people would stay outside in the rain and cold.

Rooney understands the city had to make the call to end the program.

“No one knew we’d be having 70-degree weather in November,” she said, adding they missed having the extra outdoor seating over the weekend.

Oak Pizzeria Napoletana, 523 Warren St., had six tables totalling 20 seats in two parking spots during Shared Streets, co-owner Juliana Santos said. The restaurant now has six to eight seats between three tables on the sidewalk, she said.

They saw a significant reduction in business with the end of Shared Streets, she said. While there were a lot of people on the streets last weekend, they didn’t have enough tables to accommodate them, she added.

“I wished the city would have allowed us to use the parking spaces on the weekends on a weather-permitting basis, specially in the months of November and December,” Santos said.

While they have been doing a decent amount of take-out orders, she said, people consume more alcoholic beverages when they sit down, bringing higher check averages.

American Glory, a barbecue restaurant at 342 Warren St., lost five street tables that could fit four to five people each, manager Katie Ritchey said.

People called to request outdoor seating over the weekend who could not be accommodated, Ritchey said. The restaurant has five tables that fit two people each in their front patio seating, which can’t fit larger groups.

The patio can be accessed through French doors that open to the restaurant, so the seating is closed off when it’s cold, to keep the draft out of the restaurant, she said.

Some visitors whose outdoor seating requests couldn’t be accommodated sat inside, but others went elsewhere, Ritchey said.

“People think COVID is going to come back stronger now and don’t want to sit inside,” she said.

Ritchey is new to the restaurant, she said, but she hears from co-workers that winter is already slow. It’ll probably be slower this year, she added.

“Once that cold front hit we definitely started slowing down,” she said of the colder days in past weeks before the temperature rose again.

The restaurant gets a lot of take-out orders every week, which helps, she said.

Shared Streets parking spots weren’t used solely by restaurants, with furniture and clothing stores also enabling Warren Street browsing.

Some continue to put merchandise on the sidewalks, but the limits are greater with a 4-foot sidewalk clearing required by the city.

Antigo, a multi-vendor antique and vintage store at 337 Warren St., filled two parking spaces with rugs, furniture and clothing racks.

“It was fantastic,” employee Jonathan Weil said Monday while sitting among furniture, paintings and a clothing rack neatly crammed on the sidewalk in front of the store. “It was a great idea.” He called it a street fair.

“He (Vinnie Velez, Antigo’s owner) loved the street fair and hopes it comes back every year,” Weil said.

They sold a rug every time they put them on the street, Weil said, but that wasn’t necessarily the case on the sidewalk.

The street space also allowed them to put more furniture outside that would take up too much space on the sidewalk, he added.

Business slowed down for Antigo in 2018 and 2019, but came back booming when reopening after the COVID-19 shutdown, Weil said.

Antigo reopened in July and started using the parking spots in August, he said.

Local residents Mark and Deborah D’Arcy donated $15,000 to the Shared Streets initiative to make up for the lost parking revenue from the permitted parking spots, allowing the permits to be free for businesses.

The program was organized by Hudson Hall, Future Hudson and Design for Six Feet and received $5,000 in financial support from the Columbia Economic Development Corporation and The Spark of Hudson for a study that resulted in the Shared Streets plan. The proposal was drafted by urban planner Kaja Kühl of Design for Six Feet.

“CEDC and the Spark of Hudson were happy to provide financial support for Hudson Shared Streets initiative,” CEDC President F. Michael Tucker said. “The mayor and the city, along with Hudson Hall and so many others, showed that community engagement and partnerships work.”

As we all regroup for the cold weather and the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, we are all better prepared to work together to help small business and city residents meet the challenge ahead.”

Shared Streets is releasing a survey to get feedback and gauge interest for a spring return, Carter said.

A redesigned Winter Walk is in the works to encourage continued Warren Street commerce.

“We are going to go forward with a very different version of Winter Walk this year, which is basically promoting Hudson as open for business,” Carter said. “If only we knew (about the warm weather), we could have tried to extend it (Shared Streets) at least for one more week. But the weekend before, it was snowing.”

The Winter Walk initiative will promote Hudson businesses and encourage them to decorate their windows as an attraction, she said.

The event will run from Dec. 5 through Dec. 24.

“Hopefully that will help keeping things going,” she said.

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